On Monday, the Centre carried out a virtual meeting with 32 states and 7 union territories on a new central scheme to modernize and digitalize India’s 97,000 primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACs).
Agri-cooperative credit societies, also known as PACs, are village-level lending institutions based on cooperative guidelines. They make short- and medium-term loans to rural residents to help them meet their financial obligations.
There are approximately 97,961 PACs in the country, with roughly 65,000 of them being viable. The meeting presided over by Union Cooperation Secretary D K Singh, went over the proposed central scheme in detail and solicited suggestions from the states.
The meeting was attended by state cooperation secretaries and registrars from 26 states and 7 Union territories. ‘Many states appreciated and welcomed the proposed scheme and said they were looking forward to it,’ a senior cooperation ministry official who attended the meeting told.
According to the official, the consultation with states/UTs was to get a sense of the required budget for the proposed scheme, which is expected to be implemented initially in fully functional 63,000 PACs throughout the country for a three-year period beginning in 2022.
A few states proposed changes to the proposed scheme. For example, the Telangana government emphasized the importance of educating PAC members and senior management about the importance of computerization.
According to the official, the Dadar and Nagar Haveli government suggested that each PAC have a unique identity number for better identification of PACs after geo-tagging.
This is the Union Cooperation Ministry’s second meeting with the states. To get a perception of how PACs work, the first meeting was limited to three states: Uttarakhand, Gujarat, and Karnataka.
According to the official, the ministry will then meet with NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), which will serve as a coordinating agency for the modernization of PACs under the proposed scheme.
Currently, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Telangana have fully computerized their PACs, while some other states have only partially done so. Certain states, such as Kerala, have issued tenders for computerization.
The government first proposed computerizing PACs in 2017, with a budget of ₹1,950 crores. However, it was unable to obtain cabinet clearance.
In July of this year, a new Ministry of Cooperation was established to strengthen the cooperative movement. It is developing a new cooperative policy as well as some central schemes.